From bust to ace? Why 2024 is make-or-break for Yankees starter Carlos Rodon

Yankees starting pitcher Carlos Rodon is at Yankee Stadium during September 2023.

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Carlos Rodon’s entrance into the New York Yankees’ roster was eagerly anticipated, especially after a forgettable season leading up to his debut, coincidentally culminating in the Yankees’ exit from the playoffs. However, his peculiar statistics placed him among the top 10 worst starters in 2023.

How was his last season?

Carlos Rodon, player of the New York Yankees in 2023.
AP

His inaugural season with the New York Yankees ended on a sour note. Carlos Rodon’s last outing saw him conceding eight earned runs to the Kansas City Royals before even recording an out, a dubious distinction marking a first in franchise history.

Amidst high fan expectations, General Manager Brian Cashman’s acquisition of Rodon on a lucrative six-year, $162 million contract during the offseason ignited excitement. However, Rodon’s first year didn’t live up to expectations. Plagued by an early stint on the injured list, his debut was postponed until July, setting a bleak tone for the upcoming season.

With 14 games played, Rodon managed only three wins while carrying a hefty earned run average (ERA) of 6.86, a disappointing performance for the former San Francisco Giants pitcher in his new home in New York. Scrutiny heightened in a notoriously demanding city regarding its sports culture, where underperformance is met with relentless criticism.

The conclusion of the 2023 season deepened disappointment for Yankees fans as the team failed to reach the playoffs for the first time since 2016. Rodon was meant to bolster the pitching staff alongside Gerrit Cole, but only Cole lived up to expectations as an ace.

As the season came to an end, the Yankees faced a critical offseason where Cashman began to reassess the team’s trajectory. Their reliance on veteran players, many of whom failed to deliver, demands a reassessment of their strategy in a sport increasingly favoring younger talents, catalyzed by recent rule changes.

Rodon’s adaptation to baseball’s evolving landscape, particularly the introduction of a pitch clock, may have contributed to his struggles, though concerns persist regardless. Despite his decade-long performance, Rodon’s career hasn’t shown sustained excellence. With only three seasons boasting an ERA under 4.00 and two below 3.00, questions arise about his ability to justify his lucrative contract.

With five years remaining on his deal, Rodon’s tenure with the Yankees hinges on a resurgence. The impending offseason promises a roster shakeup, but Rodon’s long-term commitment demands a return to form. Paired with Cole and Nestor Cortes Jr. operating at their peak abilities, the Yankees could mount a formidable playoff campaign.

What will happen?

Carlos Rodon will have to prove himself, especially with the arrival of names like Alex Verdugo and Juan Soto, but it’s still early, and as the games progress, he’ll need to step up.

In hindsight, Cashman’s gamble on Rodon seems less assured. As the team recalibrates, Rodon’s trajectory will define his legacy in pinstripes. While the potential for redemption remains, the burden falls entirely on Rodon to transcend his inconsistencies and validate his status as a worthy ace of the Yankees’ investment.

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